Sunday, 27 January 2019

Suspension of CJN: US, UK Caution Nigeria As European Union Counsel FG

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Concerns about timing, coming with word of counsel with tones of criticism have continued to tailor president mohammadu Buhari's sudden suspension of the chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), Samuel Nkanu Walter Onnoghen
First, the embassy of the United States, have specifically expressed deep concerns over Onnoghen’s suspension and deplored the executive’s decision to suspend and replace the CJN and head of the judicial branch, without the support of the legislative branch, on the eve of national and state elections.

“We note widespread Nigerian criticisms that this decision is unconstitutional and that it undermines the independence of the judicial branch. That undercuts the stated determination of the government, candidates, and political party leaders to ensure that the elections proceed in a way that is free, fair, transparent, and peaceful – leading to a credible result,” the statement read.
It added: “We urge that the issues raised by this decision be resolved swiftly and peacefully in accordance with due process, full respect for the rule of law, and the spirit of the Constitution of Nigeria. Such action is needed urgently now to ensure that this decision does not cast a pall over the electoral process.”
Similarly, the British Government expressed worry over Onnoghen’s removal from office as CJN. A statement from the British High Commission in Nigeria said: “We have heard a wide range of credible and independent voices, including in the Nigerian legal profession and civil society, who have expressed concern over the constitutionality of the executive branch’s suspension of the chief officer of the judiciary.
“We respect Nigeria’s sovereign authority and its right to adjudicate on constitutional provisions, but as friends of the Nigerian people, we are compelled to observe that the timing of this action, so close to national elections, gives cause for concern. It risks affecting both domestic and international perceptions of the credibility of the forthcoming elections.
“We, along with other members of the international community, are following developments closely,” said the statement on its website.

The UK government, therefore, urged all actors to maintain calm and address the concerns raised by the development through due process, demonstrating their commitment to respecting the Constitution and the impartial administration of the rule of law. It further urged the actors to take steps to ensure that elections take place in an environment conducive to a free, fair and peaceful process.
On its part, the European Union said the decision to suspend the Chief Justice has led to many Nigerians, including lawyers and civil society observer groups questioning whether due process was followed, and the timing- just before the swearing in of justices for electoral tribunals, and the hearing of election-related cases.
This development, the body said, has also raised concerns about the opportunity for electoral justice.
A statement by Sarah Fradgley said the EU EOM was invited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to observe the 2019 general elections but is now very concerned about the process and timing of the suspension.

The EU noted that with 20 days until the presidential and National Assembly elections, political parties, candidates and voters must be able to have confidence in the impartiality and independence of the judicial system, independence of the election administration, the neutrality of security agencies and the extent to which the judiciary can, and does fulfil its election-related responsibilities.
 “The EU EOM calls on all parties to follow the legal processes provided for in the Constitution and to respond calmly to any concerns they may have.  
“The EU EOM will continue observing all aspects of the election, including the independence of the election administration, the neutrality of security agencies, and the extent to which the judiciary can and does fulfil its election-related responsibilities,”
Meanwhile, the presidency yesterday, said the Nigeria government will not sit back and allow foreign countries to interfere in its affairs, apparently reacting to comment credited to some foreign countries that was trying to counsel government over its decision on the suspension of the chief justice of Nigeria on Friday, the presidency in statement signed by senior special Assistance on media and publicity, Garba Shehu said last night that Nigeria reserved the right to control its internal affairs and noted that it would not subscribe to other countries “meddling” in its affairs.
The government said the forthcoming elections would be free, fair and credible.
It said Nigeria had rules and laws governing its affairs and would apply them in all circumstances for the purpose of promoting good governance.
They had observed that this could heat up the polity and might signpost possible mayhem during and after the elections.
But, on Saturday, the government, through Shehu’s statement, dismissed the apprehension as an attempt by outsiders to interfere with the internal affairs of Nigeria.
The statement said, “The Federal Government welcomes the prevailing keen interest and partnerships for successful elections and peaceful Nigeria.
“However, we reject any interference or perception management that promotes apprehension, citizens’ distrust or undermines the transparency and acceptability of the outcomes of our electoral process.
“Nigeria reserves the right to be insulated from suggestions and or interference with respect to wholly internal affairs and commands international laws, customs and norms that mandate and require nations and the comity to respect this prerogative to all.”
In the same vein, the Senate will, on Tuesday, reconvene to discuss the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, and the swearing-in of Tanko Mohammed as the acting CJN by President Mohammadu Buhari, on Friday.
A principal officer in the Senate, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told urban express news correspondents yesterday that the leadership of both chambers would have a crucial meeting today (Sunday) to deliberate on the agenda for the emergency session.
The source said, “The leadership of the two chambers has agreed to reconvene on Tuesday. They will, however, hold a crucial meeting in the private residence of the Senate President on Sunday evening (today).

“The meeting will set agenda for the emergency session they plan for Tuesday. I cannot confirm whether the impeachment of the President will form part of the agenda but I can assure you that a drastic decision will be taken against him.”

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